Along for the Ride #109

Heya friends, happy Friday!

Seems like a lot of you enjoyed last week’s guest edition by Anne Krassner. I am really grateful for her perspective and I can’t wait to share more guest editions with you in the coming months! This week’s edition is a mix of my usual style, with a couple links below, as I’ve got two weeks worth of news to cover.

Before we dive into the news, please consider donating (as you are able to) to various mutual aid groups in India. I know many readers are based in the UK, US and Canada, and right now it can feel like the pandemic is starting to come to an end. However, in India the inequity of access to vaccines is already taking its toll. Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center estimates that the 92 poorest countries in the world will likely be unable to vaccinate 60 percent of their populations until 2023–or later.

Read(s) of the Week

Will the AVs of the future be racist?

According to the UK Law Commission, which is drawing up the legal framework for autonomous vehicles, autonomous vehicles may “struggle to recognise dark-skinned faces in the dark” because facial recognition software may be less accurate at detecting “non-white and non-male faces”. The Law Commission also points out that the vehicles haven’t been trained to deal with people using wheelchairs or mobility scooters yet. released a counter-argument stating there was ‘no reason’ the vehicles wouldn’t be able to recognize non-white folks, women or people with disabilities.

If you’re in the industry, I’d be curious to hear your take on this.

MIT Tech Review releases their Cities Issue

So many good nuggets in this edition, but I’d especially like to call out the interview with Remix CEO, Tiffany Chu, written by my friend John Surico on how we can leverage the pandemic to improve public transit.

Government and Policy

Policy Makers Need to Steer AVs in the Right Direction

Via the David Suzuki Foundation! “If we don’t steer this rollout on the right course, we could face a future in which single-occupant, self driving vehicles dominate roads. Privately owned by those who can afford them, streams of cars without any occupants would circle neighbourhoods, increasing congestion and slowing transit to a crawl. Urban sprawl would continue, with people using longer commutes to sit and stare at a screen.”

More news:

  • UK plans for AVs to test on public roads this year (BBC for a general take, for the official government announcement)

  • How an AV shuttle pilot in Columbus, OH emerged during the pandemic (GovTech)

  • Toyota is building a city for self-driving cars (CityLab)

  • Architect Thomas Heatherwick on the future of cities (The Guardian) // Heatherwick is a bit of an eyeroll imho, so here’s a hilarious link to his PA job posting for anybody curious about what is wrong with starchitects today

  • Senators in the US are working with NHSTA again to introduce AV legislation (CNET)

  • The 15 minute city is designed for people with disabilities (CityLab)

  • Hong Kong opens world’s largest public road test for AVs (CGTN)


Global Autonomous Driving Network Q2 / 2021

Subscriber and friend Augustin Friedel has published his latest version of the AV Network Map. Super useful resource for those trying to track the ever-evolving and often incestuous partnerships in this industry.

More news:

  • Industry consolidation continues as Lyft sells their self-driving unit to Toyota’s Woven Planet (TechCrunch)

  • Volvo to supply cars for Didi’s global autonomous driving fleets (TechCrunch)

  • On AV freight company TuSimple’s recent IPO (NYT)

  • Aurora’s plan to catch up with Waymo (Bloomberg)

  • Oxbotica raises $13.8M from Ocado (TechCrunch)

  • Top mobility start-ups to watch in Europe (Sifted)

  • Zoox’s CEO on the future of EVs and AVs (Bloomberg)

  • given permit to have passenger-carrying autonomous car test in Shenzhen (AutoNews)

Research and Academia

SUVs and GHGs between 2000-2017

“The combined cost of these emissions and the increased risk of traffic fatalities light trucks pose may reach $94.3-350.7 billion. These costs indicate the need for the federal and state governments to update transportation policies, including amending fuel economy standards, raising fuel taxes, and regulating vehicles based on weight.”

More research:


What will it take for us to start regulating Tesla?

“So far, the public has been sold a bill of goods, futurists and automakers alike — Volvo, for instance — implying that fully autonomous automobiles could completely eliminate automobile fatalities. Now, let’s be clear: No matter how powerful the supercomputer or how accurate the seeing-eye sensor, such claims are fantasies that do nothing other than to put unrealistic expectations into the public domain. As Musk — and countless other autonomous automobile advocates — so rightly note, there’s a smell of hypocrisy in the air when two people dying in a Model S garners top-of-the-fold headlines while almost 100 Americans a day die in motor vehicle crashes in total anonymity. Automotive autonomy has been over-hyped so assiduously that consumers are not only convinced it is just around the corner but that it will also be infallible. Little wonder, then, that any intrusion into that fallacy sends us reeling.”

More opinion:

  • As commutes return post pandemic, how can we minimize noise pollution? (Slate)

  • How electric and autonomous vehicles will transform the car industry (WSJ)

  • Can tech make roads safer? (NYT)

A Parting Poem

It’s our last poem as we round out National Poetry month. Here’s a favourite which reminds me of my days wondering around High Holborn thinking about AVs and urbanisation during my Masters.. Celia Celia by Adrian Mitchell is short and sweet with a lil dose of cheeky humour.

"When I am sad and weary
When I think all hope has gone
When I walk along High Holborn
I think of you with nothing on."

That’s all from me, have a beautiful weekend friends.